Early Monday morning, when I was driving to Tel Aviv, a radio news flash caused me to pull over to the side of the road and call home. It reported on the suicide bombing that had destroyed two Jerusalem buses, and it was clear that the blast had taken place just outside the apartment house where my younger son lives.
My wife had already spoken to him, and he was all right but badly shaken. On hearing the explosion he had rushed downstairs to see if he could help, not forgetting to take with him a tourniquet left over from his last stint of reserve duty. However, before he could use the tourniquet or drive some wounded person to a hospital, ambulances and medical personnel had arrived and were dealing with the situation.
Everything looked surprisingly familiar. While he had never been present at a bombing site before, he had seen such carnage over and over again on local TV. Then the usual demonstrators quickly turned up carrying the usual signs and shouting the usual slogans: "Death to the Arabs; Rabin is a traitor; the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews and the Jews alone."
These demonstrators are sure that they have all the answers to Israel's problems, though most other Israelis are in a quandary. On the one hand, the majority of them fervently support peace with the Arabs, but, on the other hand, they fear that peace may be unattainable. And even if it is attainable with one group of Arabs, another group, it appears, will probably go on murdering Jews.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was certainly justified in his criticism of right-wing demonstrators who — by forcing the security forces to waste manpower holding them in check — interfere with efforts to fight terrorism. But castigating right-wingers is not enough. He must also provide a greater degree of security for the average Israeli. He must put an end to the situation that makes riding a bus like playing a game of Russian roulette. Otherwise, the average Israeli is unlikely to support the peace process.
My wife and I share the concerns of our fellow citizens. After reluctantly getting used to worrying about our daughter and her family, who, as residents of Kiryat Shmona, have several times been under rocket bombardment, we now find ourselves hardly less worried about our other two children, both Jerusalemites. Explosions, it seems, are almost as likely to occur in Israel's capital as in its northern outposts.
Even our youngest son, a firm supporter of negotiations with Yasser Arafat and other Arab leaders, is uneasy. He cannot but be distressed by things that happen, as he puts it, "not there, but here, right in the middle of my life."